Feb 18, 2014

Railways to get Rs.29000 Crore as Budgetary Support in 2014-15

New Delhi: The interim budget presented today announced an increase of budgetary allocation for railways from Rs 26,000 crore in 2013-14 to Rs 29,000 crore in 2014-15.

“Railways need to mobilise huge resources through market burrowing and private public partnership schemes. It is proposed to identify new instruments and new mechanism to raise funds for railway projects,” Finance Minister P Chidambaram said.

Railways is getting total Rs 30,223 crore as gross budgetary support for the fiscal 2014-15 which includes Rs 1223 crore as fuel cess.

Describing the increase in passenger fares of trains in the recent past as one of the “path-braking” decisions, Chidambaram said government took several notable decisions including some that were “described as courageous and long overdue”.

Railways fares were rationalised for the first time in a decade, Chidambaram said in his Interim Budget 2014-15 speech.

The then Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal had effected an across-the-board hike in fares of all classes from midnight of January 21, 2013 to net an additional Rs 6,600 crore a year, the first such increase in a decade.

Later on the railways further increased passenger fares by up to 2 per cent across classes, except for the unreserved section, with the introduction of fuel adjustment component (FAC), a component that links rail tariffs with the price of fuel.

Source...RAIL NEWS

Mumbai High Court: Railways should consider raising platform height above 920mm

Mumbai: The Bombay High Court also asked the Expert Committee to inspect existing height of Railway platforms and give its recommendation for reducing gap between platform and train footboards to prevent further mishaps

The Bombay High Court has asked an Expert Committee to examine the gaps between footboards of local trains and railway platforms and recommend suitable measures, including raising the height of platforms to prevent mishaps.

“At present the Court does not propose to pass any order on this issue, but it would be in the fitness of things to direct the Committee appointed by this Court to have another meeting and to recommend optimum height of the platform after taking into consideration all the relevant aspects including the height of the coach floor of suburban trains and also mail/ express/ passenger trains. The Committee shall also take into consideration the height of the platform at stations, which do not cater to the express/ mail/ passenger trains,” the HC said in its order issued last week.

The Committee is asked to file its report by 28th February to the Railways. The HC also directed railway officials to examine the Committee Report and come out with an action plan by 13th March.

A bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice MS Sanklecha directed the expert committee to inspect each and every platform on the Central and Western Railway routes and decide how much space should be left between the platforms and the footboards of trains so that mishaps could be avoided.

Adv Jamshed Mistry, the Special Invitee on Moneylife Foundation, has been appointed as amicus curie in the case.

The Committee, which has been given this task, is the same one appointed earlier by the High Court to look into the problems of handicapped persons who commute by local trains.

The bench had taken up the issue after a 16-year-old college girl, Monica More, lost her arms after falling into a gap between the platform and local train at Ghatkopar railway station while trying to board a local train last month.

The tragic incident brought to the fore the risk over 75 lakh commuters take daily to board crowded suburban local trains, transport ‘lifelines’ of Mumbai.

The Western Railway submitted before the Court that it had increased height of suburban platforms at nine railway stations including Grant Road and Dadar.

The Court has directed the expert Committee to inspect these nine platforms also along with others.

The HC also reprimanded the railways for keeping wide gaps between the platforms and footboards of trains thereby putting the lives of commuters at great risk.

The court observed “you (railways) are not ready to listen to others. Your stand has been that whatever you say is right and others are wrong.”

Counsel for railways Suresh Kumar gave technical reasons for not increasing the height of platforms.

Next hearing of the case is scheduled for 20th March.

The railways in an affidavit had said that the gap between the footboards of local trains and platforms is not the sole cause behind commuters losing their life or limbs in mishaps but there were several other factors involved like crossing of tracks, trespassing and over-crowding.

In Mumbai, there is no separate rail corridor for local suburban trains and long-distance trains. Since the width of the long-distance trains is greater than local trains, the platforms have to be constructed keeping this in mind.

Source...RAIL NEWS

Nokia Solutions and Networks (NSN) wins GSM-R deal with Polish Railway

Nokia Solutions and Networks (NSN) today said it will support Polish Railway for expanding its GSM-R infrastructure by deploying mobile network on 440-kilometer stretch of east-west rail corridor.

As per the deal, NSN will provide its GSM-Railway (GSM-R) mobile infrastructure to cover a 440-kilometer section of Poland’s E-20 railway corridor.

To optimize traveling time and help ensure safety, the nation’s rail network management, PKP Polskie Linie Kolejowe (PLK) has selected NSN’s solution to modernize communications along the tracks, linking central Poland with the country’s eastern border.

NSN’s GSM-R communications will provide PLK with a secure digital infrastructure. The deal covers the railway section between the central city of Lowicz and Terespol and is to be completed during the fourth quarter of 2015.

Technology firm Thales will build turnkey transmission including fiber-optic cables network. NSN said the transmission system will be based on Synchronous Digital Hierarchy (SDH) and Ethernet technology, dedicated particularly to Fixed Dispatcher Terminals communications on the 440-kilometer section.

NSN will deploy its Base Stations and Base Station Controller. For seamless integration, NSN will provide a broad range of services including network design, project management, network implementation and maintenance. The deal also includes NSN’s NetActnetwork management system to ensure network efficiency and stability.

To date, the company has deployed around 30 GSM-R networks in 21 countries, serving some 50,000 km of railways to make it the world’s number one GSM-R vendor in both the number of commercial networks and the length of operated GSM-R lines.

Source...RAIL NEWS

Railways to spend Rs.600 Cr on Bhopal Rly Station to make it World Class

Bhopal: The master plan of converting the Habibganj railway station into the railway hub of central India has been prepared under the policy of vision 2020. This railway station will be developed on the lines of Germany’s Berlin railway station and Tianjin west railway station of china. These stations were reviewed and surveyed before the master plan was ready.
The proposal includes the construction of conference hall, business centre, Retail shop, Museum, Art gallery, Restaurant along with a centre for entertainment and cultural activities. The passengers in this case will not have to wait on platform in case of delayed train as they can pass their time accordingly.
The master plan is prepared by the Indian Railway Station Development Corporation (IRSDC) keeping in mind the development of Bhopal in coming 40 years. The first presentation of the plan took place on 12th February in a meeting conducted between state government and railway officials.
Source...RAIL NEWS

Rail Budgets of succeeding years over last 10 years achieved Nothing

Roop Karnani is a Senior Journalist, Author and Industry Analyst

Mumbai: The Rail budgets of succeeding years over the last 10 years have done nothing at all to modernize the 100 year old archaic British built railway network, when the world including Britain has moved on to modern high speed trains and automatic signals and trains controlled by computers at main control rooms located at major stations.

The result is that we have not added much to the 60,000 km network of railways, which we inherited from the British, and maintenance is poor, resulting in lack of safety and regular train accidents. Only 4,500 km of the 60,000 km is electrified. This means 95% of trains run on diesel. This means a huge import bill of crude. Budget after budget 17 to 20 new trains are added to the system, which is already overburdened.

The Rail budget last week showed a shortfall of about Rs. 20,000 crores, which is provided by the main budget of the country. What is appalling is that there are 1.4 million regular employees in the union, when World Bank reports show that this is twice the manpower required for operating the Indian railway network. The 6th pay commission resulted in a payout of more than Rs. 1 lakh crores annually to this huge manpower. It is even more appalling that during the last financial year the railways added 200000 (2 lakh) more employees. The government has already declared that there will be a 7th pay commission as early as 2016.

Railways are being used by the political class more for employment generation and as a vote catching instrument than for efficient transportation. Both in the passenger section and the freight section the railways is losing market share to roadways. For example in freight it has come down from 38% to 30%. This year alone it has lost 0.5% market share, despite the fact that trucking rates have gone up sharply. The dedicated western freight corridor was planned a decade ago with the help of World Bank and soft loans from Japan, but even after 10 years there has been zero progress. At least that would have been a good beginning in not only adding to essential infrastructure but to get in new high speed technology of tracks, trains and automatic signaling. Just this one freight corridor can turn the Railway into a profitable organization.

That’s not all – it would result in huge employment generation for building such a huge infrastructure project. It would also require a large amount of steel production for rails as well as wagons which would boost the shares of several steel and construction companies.

Also, as the huge project is completed in a speedy and time bound manner, it will speed up movement of goods which will increase the GDP considerably. The only problem could be land acquisition. But it is well known that Railways own a huge amount of land.

Japan which has offered to take a lead role in this infrastructure project has been so frustrated by the delays of the project by UPA2 that it is bent on implementing the dedicated freight corridor successfully, if Modi comes to power and they will put in all efforts to help railways upgrade itself in the fastest manner and bring it to at least 50% of the international level in 5 years, because even the finances are being provided by Japan as a soft loan for 50 years at 0.5% interest.

So, one is likely to see a paradigm shift in the railways in the near future, depending of course on the election outcome.

Source...RAIL NEWS

Railgate: High Court’s no to early hearing of plea against Bansal

The High Court, however, dismissed the plea seeking a direction to the lower court to expedite the hearing and the decision

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court today refused to direct a lower court to expedite the hearing on a plea by an NGO seeking further probe into the alleged role of former Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal and others in the Rs 10- crore cash-for-post railway bribery case.

Bansal has been made a CBI witness in the case in which his nephew Vijay Singla and nine others are named as accused.

“The application of the petitioner (Social Progressive Society) is yet to be decided by the trial court which has fixed it for hearing and disposal on March 3,” Justice Mukta Gupta said.

During the hearing, Jaivir Bains, counsel for the NGO, said its plea for a direction to CBI to probe further the alleged role of Bansal and his nephew Singla in the case has not been decided by the trial court so far and any further delay would make the plea “infructuous”.

“The case of the petitioner is that CBI has not investigated the role of Pawan Kumar Bansal and has not formed an opinion as to his guilt or innocence in the charge sheet.

“CBI has not formed or expressed any opinion or investigated his role in any manner on the basis of which it could be plausibly concluded that they have conducted an investigation qua him,” the plea said.

The plea, which is pending disposal in the lower court since November 30 last year, had alleged the telephone line of the then minister was used and CBI should have probed further.

The High Court, however, dismissed the plea seeking a direction to the lower court to expedite the hearing and the decision saying the application is yet to be decided.

CBI, which had filed the charge sheet in July last year, has made ten persons as accused and alleged Singla had demanded Rs 10 crore from then Member (Staff) of Railway Board Mahesh Kumar, an accused in the case, for his appointment as Member (Electrical).

Source...RAIL NEWS

Mumbai Gap Traps: IRCTC Chief Manager killed after falling in train-platform gap

Mumbai: The deadly gap traps at stations claimed the life of one of railway’s own on Monday evening. An IRCTC catering manager assigned duty on the August Kranti Rajdhani Express to Delhi was killed when he fell into the gap between Andheri station’s platform No 4 and his coach. 

Witnesses said that the train was already in motion when Aashish Singh tried to board it. He was struck in the head by a metal ladder under the coach, which is believed to have caused his death.

A doctor at Cooper Hospital, where Singh was taken, said that he had suffered severe head injuries and deep cuts near his abdomen. “He must have died on the spot,” the doctor said.

For the past two months, several media has been highlighting the danger gap traps at railway stations pose to passengers. Last month, 16-year-old college student Monica More fell into a gap at Ghatkopar station and was run over by a train. She lost both her arms.

According to an official in the Western Railway, Singh was handling the “VIP catering service” on August Kranti Rajdhani Express. He had boarded the train at Mumbai Central, from where it departed around 5.45 pm. When the train halted at Andheri, Singh got off for some work. Before he could board the train, it started moving. Witnesses said he made a dash, but slipped and fell into the gap.

“It was 6.10 pm when this happened,” the official said. The RPF has sought CCTV footage of the platform to piece together the chain of events.

“Most long-distance trains have a ladder between coaches. One should not try to board a running train as the fall could be fatal,” the official said.

Source...RAIL NEWS

Most of the Fire Extinguishers in trains are Old & Expired: No improvements even after fire accidents

Union railway minister Mallikarjun Kharge’s interim railway budget speech last week stressed on fire and smoke detection systems inside trains after back-to-back burning disasters on board Nanded Express and Bandra Terminus-Dehradun Express, but for passengers boarding from Ranchi or Hatia stations, any day could be blaze day.

Where lip service to safety is given, fire extinguishers are present, but expiry dates may be over or they may be defunct. In most cases, the extinguisher will be missing.

D. Sarkar, on board Shatabdi Express (Ranchi-Howrah) on Monday, trashed the government’s seriousness on improving fire safety on trains.

“Most fire extinguishers, like in my air-conditioned coach C3, and adjoining C4 and C5, have expired. There is no smoke warning system. If a coach catches fire, getting roasted alive is easy to imagine,” Sarkar said from the train on Monday afternoon.

Only C6 coach had a fire extinguisher that could perhaps be relied upon to work. Last checked on June 4, 2013, it displayed an expiry date of June 3, 2014.

When contacted, Shatabdi Express pantry car assistant manager Shravan Pandey claimed they had fire extinguishers at every coach. “We frequently recharge them. Each fire extinguisher has month and year inspection tags. We regularly check each extinguisher,” he said.

A second look at the train’s pantry car revealed the absence of a fire extinguisher. “Humlog ko bhi dar lagta hai (we are scared too),” a staffer said, adding they had not been trained in firefighting. “There is one exit window in each coach instead of four emergency exits,” he also pointed out.

Ranchi-Patna Janshatabdi Express was also devoid of fire fighting equipment.

“In the AC coach, the portable fire extinguisher is not working. The pantry car has no firefighting system. All portable fire extinguishers require refilling but who is there to listen,” said Amitabh Lal, a passenger in C2.

At Ranchi-Baidyanathdham Express, bound for Deoghar, no coach had a fire extinguisher. Finally, it was noticed they were locked up in the guardroom. The mystery was cleared.

“We frequently travel by ordinary coach (non-AC). It’s packed with people and luggage. If a fire occurs, there is only one emergency window and god knows how we will ever find it in the stampede that is sure to be as much of a killer as the fire,” rued college-goer Ramesh Kumar, a passenger.

At Hatia Railway station, all the fire extinguishers inside Hatia-Puri Express had expired. No surprises here, too.

Divisional railway manager (DRM), Ranchi, Deepak Kashyap, however claimed they were doing everything they could. “We give counselling and training to our mechanical department staff responsible to maintain fire safety equipment,” he claimed.

On expired fire extinguishers, Kashyap trotted out a standard reply. “We are regularly trying to refill cylinders so that they can be promptly used to combat crisis,” he said.

“We have received a directive from Railway Board that there should be regular inspections in all the coaches by both mechanical and electrical engineers to ensure firefighting equipment are well-maintained,” he added.

Kashyap saved the best for the last: “Soon, LPG cylinders in our pantry cars will be replaced with microwave ovens. This will also make trains much safer.”

But an official, who did not want to be named, said safety of trains depended on group C and D staff who had their own limitations.

“They rue lack of funds that hinders them from replacing defunct fire extinguishers. Training is also irregular. Till a crisis occurs, no one is prepared for it or will be,” he said.

What will you do in case of fire on your train?
Source...RAIL NEWS





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